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Tuesday, May 28, 2024


IT’S well documented that Mark Skaife had a pretty good year in 1992.

He scored his first Australian Touring Car Championship crown, won the Bathurst 1000 for a second time running and collected a second straight Australian Drivers’ Championship title.

But he also ticked off another pretty amazing career milestone in October of that year that many have forgotten; he drove a current Formula 1 car for the first – and, it turned out, only – time.

A then 25-year-old Skaife had made it big in Australian touring cars with Nissan and was plotting how he could get to the very top of the sport globally.

He’d jetted to France straight after Bathurst to contest the final two rounds of that year’s International Formula 3000 Championship, which was the Formula 2 of the day.

The Jordan team decked the car out complete with Skaife’s name. Pic: Jonathan Panoff

With that experience under his belt, he returned to Australia to compete in the following month’s Formula Brabham support races at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide.

And it was one week out from that event that he had the chance to drive for the Jordan Formula 1 team… in the car park of the Colonnades Shopping Centre in Adelaide’s south!

“The Grand Prix office called me and they said ‘look, would you do this? It’s just basically a promo for the Grand Prix’,” Skaife recalled to the V8 Sleuth Podcast in 2020.

Skaife between runs in the Jordan. At this point in his career he was eying an F1 future. Pic: Jonathan Panoff

“I said ‘no problem’, it was a great opportunity.

“It was like driving an Arnott’s biscuit with an outboard on it, it was certainly a wild device in a little shitty carpark with no grip and cold tyres!

“But that was worth doing and it was a nice association with Jordan.”

The Colonnades F1 demos took place for multiple years during the early 1990s and also featured various other competition machinery, including the local touring cars and Formula Brabhams.

Skaife affirmed that the Jordan he drove was a “full blown race car” and the rare images featured in this story suggest it was used as the team’s spare for Adelaide.

It was a tough season for Jordan; the team’s only points came in the AGP season finale. Pic: Jonathan Panoff

Coincidentally Jordan’s technical director at the time, Gary Anderson, had earlier designed the Spa FB003 car in which Skaife won the 1991 and ’92 Australian Drivers’ Championships.

Skaife won a third-straight Australian Drivers’ title in 1993, this time in a Lola, having again been on double-duties with his touring car commitments.

He had hoped to move into Formula 3000 full-time in 1993 but couldn’t get a deal over the line and reluctantly returned to Australia and its new V8 touring car format.

Skaife’s overseas adventures feature in his new book, Mark Skaife: The Complete Illustrated Autobiography, which can be purchased here via the V8 Sleuth Bookstore.

“My back-up plan was always to spend the next year [1993] in Formula 3000, because I wasn’t looking forward to racing a Holden back in Australia,” he wrote in the book.

“But it was a lot of money we had to find and even though we had basically done a deal, we let it slide and I came home.

“It was going to be hard to get the $1.5 million we needed; I mean, Australian companies have never been good at supporting our young drivers overseas and there was no television for the series.

“So, I shelved my international dreams and set my mind on dominating in Australia with a Holden.”

Skaife went on to win four ATCC titles in Holdens; finding success again with Gibson Motorsport in 1994 and then taking a hat-trick with the Holden Racing Team from 2000-02.

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